Lead Through Strengths

Self Care Ideas That Most Corporate Professionals Haven't Considered

You can't go very far when you're running on empty, no matter how hard you push. And that's why we've come up with this fun episode for you — consider it a virtual "filling station." All you need to do for now is hit the brake, find clarity, and refill your tank with self care ideas that use your natural talents.

Just like operating from your unique strengths, practicing self care makes a world of difference. Self care is not self-ish, because it results in giving your world the best of you [very punny, right?].

No matter your role in your team, your strengths can guide you in choosing the tasks that replenish you so that you can contribute your best - and achieve goals with less effort.

Our host Lisa Cummings is joined once again by TyAnn Osborn, and together they will guide you towards the things that could re-energize you. As you'll find out, filling up on self care ideas doesn’t have to be limited to studying mindfulness, meditation, and massage.

Surprisingly, self care can feel really practical in the workplace, despite the typical connotation, which seems to live outside of the office. There are many self care ideas that come right out of your natural talents - ways you can approach your work to re-energize you while you simultaneously get things done.

Here’s their conversation:

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and you know, I'm always telling you, it's hard to find something more energizing than using your natural talents every day at work. 

Well, something that's just about as energizing is when I get to hang out with my other host here in the room, TyAnn Osborn. 

TyAnn: Hi!

Lisa: Today, we're talking about... We don't know yet what we're talking about, because we're doing a spin-the-wheel, where it tells us what we're talking about for the day. So let's spin. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: Ooh, this one is talking about self care ideas... 

TyAnn: Self care. 

Lisa: When you run empty.

TyAnn: Well... 

Lisa: No, you should just start this Ty, because you've talked about when the cup is empty, you have nothing to give. We definitely need some self care ideas up in here.

How These Self Care Ideas Can Help You Avoid Burnout

TyAnn: That's it. So I think this is a really important topic right now. And, you know, we're all facing different struggles, no matter what it is. Depending on when you listen, there can be any number of things happening.

Maybe you've got a personal health struggle, maybe you're facing job troubles, potential job loss. Maybe you've got some family stuff going on, kids stuff going on. I don't know, maybe there was a global pandemic.

There's all kinds of things happening in the world right now, and something is probably happening in your life. 

And here's the deal. You know, we have a lot of demands and pulls on our time and our energy. And often, we're trying to give so much to other people. If you're a manager, a people manager, you know, you're really trying to show up and be the best for your team. If you've got kids you're trying to give. If you're a volunteer, you're trying to give.

But the truth is, you can't give from an empty cup. And so this is really where we've got to build self care ideas in our own life so that we can have our own replenishment - things that help us so that we can help give to other people. Because, believe me, if you're just gonna keep pouring, nothing's gonna come out. 

Lisa: That's a good point. It's kind of like, if you use your cup metaphor, I'm going to drink, there's nothing there. I'm trying to take a sip, there's nothing there. 

TyAnn: Yeah, you're still slurping on that straw, like (slurps)... Nothing happening. 

Lisa: And I, I see this with a lot of clients where we want to be it all. We want to give it all. We want to do it all. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: I have very high expectations of myself that I never meet. I see customers who have high expectations of themselves that they never meet, and they feel crushing expectations from other people around them, so that same family member, teammate, boss, all of those situations, and they are like, "Everyone wants a piece of me, and I've got nothing."

TyAnn: Yeah, "I've got nothing to give." And believe me, that is the number one recipe for burnout right there. Because, you know, we're people and a lot of us are strong in terms of achievement, and being able to really, you know, move forward. That's why we're successful in our careers. And we've kind of gotten to these points. But believe me, there's only so far you can push this before you will just hit a wall

And often, you and I've talked about this before, oftentimes your body will tell you you've hit a wall before your brain will intellectually let you believe it. And, you know, I heard this one time on Oprah, she said, the universe speaks to you. And first, it'll be a whisper. And if you don't listen, then it'll start tapping a little louder. And finally, you know, if you keep not listening, it'll smack you upside the head. So I think it's really important to generate  self care ideas, and create a practice. 

And we can talk about, "What does that look like from a strengths perspective?"

Lisa: Yeah. When I think about self care ideas, I think about fitness. I think about fuel in the body, like what you're eating and drinking. I think about, "Am I consciously trying to direct my work to allow energizing things?"

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: I also think about hobbies. Am I doing things in life that fill my cup back up? 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Different Energizers For Different Folks — Scrap The Judgment

Lisa: There are a lot of things I think people can list if you ask, "What things energize you?"

TyAnn: Yes. 

Lisa: But then how many do you allow yourself to do, and how do you know the payoff, like, “Okay, if I allow myself to sleep 9 hours a night, which my body thinks it wants…” 

TyAnn: Yeah.

Lisa: We can have self care ideas, but we might not give ourselves permission to try them. It feels self-indulgent.

TyAnn: So true.

Lisa: ...I think, "I don't have time for that. I have too much to do." But I think I also would like to drive to a gym and go do yoga in the morning and then, start work around noon, and... 

TyAnn: Play with your dogs and the drums and take a nap. 

Lisa: Yeah, I have songs to write. I have drums to play. I have dogs to take care of. I have a husband to hang out with. I have a lot to do. And that takes up a whole workday all by itself. These are beautiful self care ideas, yet I need to bring home the bacon too.

TyAnn: Right?! Did you time for work?

Lisa: Who's got time for that? 

TyAnn: Yeah. So how do you fit these self care ideas into your day? And how does this feel like not just one more thing I have to do? And then where can I get the biggest bang for my buck? 

Lisa: Yeah. Good point. You can have self care ideas, but they can also feel burdensome because they take up time. So what's the first step? I mean, and we're doing this related to strengths. 

TyAnn: So what are all the answers to this mystery? 

So a few things. I will just offer a personal bias. I think this word "self care" is used a lot now. It's thrown around. And sometimes when I hear it, it feels a little soft. Or it's all about like taking long hot bubble baths or something. And I think that feels a little squishy to me.

So how about we just say, things that replenish you? Whatever that is for you. 

Lisa: The magic wand, we are now turning "self care ideas" into "things that replenish you." Very simple. That definitely makes it less squishy.

TyAnn: Yeah. And I also think we can take away judgment on that, because something that makes you feel good might not make me feel good. So it's very personal to you. 

Lisa: Well, I think that we have one of those because I think that you're making fun of bubble baths, but that you actually do like them. And you like to read in the bath. 

TyAnn: I do. 

Lisa: Meanwhile, when we built our house, we built a bathless house because we don't take baths. 

TyAnn: Hey, interesting trend in real estate, right?

Lisa: Is it?. I didn't realize that.

TyAnn: As someone who just went through that process, now you go in, it's kind of polarizing. Bath person. No bath person.

Some people have the big freestanding bathtub, it's a whole spa. Other people are like, "No, that's big waste." So it is a good metaphor for this topic. 

Lisa: It totally is.

TyAnn: Because one person's replenishment is another person’s waste of space. So that's something that I do for myself and actually recommend for my clients as well. It’s just...take out a white sheet of paper. I'm a big believer in like analog tools, or get a whiteboard, and then just list out stuff you like. 

And here's what's interesting. Sometimes that can be paralyzing to clients, like, “Oh, my God, where do I even start?” So just take away all of the judgment. It can be little things like, "I like chocolate ice cream." That can't be my entire self care regimen, by the way, or I'd gain 50 pounds. But, you know, just start listing without judging the list.

Creation and editing are two very different processes. Separate them so we can start listing out things. Start with the creation of a list. Write all of the things that replenish you. If that feels too limiting, just write things that you like - activities you enjoy.

Lisa: Don't judge it while it's landing on the page.

TyAnn: No judgment. As Planet Fitness says "this is a no judgement zone," (even though they misspelled judgment). So...

Lisa: They did?

TyAnn: Some judgment... 

Lisa: You’re judging the judgment spelling, that is. 

TyAnn: I know, judgment, right? Slightly judgy. So I would just say, try that, or I get clients stuck on... "I can only list work things that I'm excited about..."

Lisa: Ha ha. I hear your Maximizer talent coming out.

Maybe we can do categories for their self care ideas.

Tyann: Yeah. 

Lisa: Let's come up with some categories. You could list work things that you like, 

TyAnn: Could be... 

Lisa: Work people that you like.

TyAnn: (laughs) That's a big one. 

Lisa: Because people are like, “You replenish me. When I'm around you, my energy goes up.” 

TyAnn: But there are some people who don't replenish us. So they wouldn't go on the list. 

Lisa: Right? Ha ha. Okay. So we've got work...tasks or responsibilities. We've got people. 

TyAnn: Maybe workplaces. 

Lisa: Ooh, like physical places?

TyAnn: Yes. Or maybe if you get to travel somewhere that's fun. Or maybe traveling for you to some location you dread that maybe you have to go once a quarter. And that's really a de-energizer for you. So don't put that on your list. 

Lisa: And you might know, "Hey, I'll make another list of things I need to get my energy up because I know it's going to be drained more...when these things happen."

TyAnn: So this is the “things that bring me energy” list. So work stuff... and get as granular as you can in terms of work tasks. So I don't recommend putting things on there like, the XYZ project, because that's way too big.

So get very granular about what specifically about that project did you like? Did you like interacting with the project team members, because it was just that awesome team where you really felt like you clicked with everyone? Or was it because you got to be out front? That would be me. You know it to be out on stage or I get to be the one making the presentation. Or maybe you're that spreadsheet jockey and you came up with just a brilliant thing that you pushed a button and all these magic happened, and it was the coolest thing ever.

That would not be me. But for someone that could be. 

Lisa: You can also see trends after the list is complete...if you make yourself stick with the list-making when it gets tough for a minute. Then you can see bigger trends. Like one that I know for me I've figured out is, I like making things, but I like making a class. I like making an audio file. I like making a song up. I like making all sorts of different types of making. Some are very tech-focused. Some are super creative, but I couldn't see that trend until I listed a bunch of the details. 

That's when you get self care ideas that you never expected. They don't come out on the first pass.

TyAnn: That’s great! I love that. So then you can go back and say what is it about these things that are similar? It's a creative process. 

Embracing What’s 'Weird' And Improving On What’s 'Standard' Are Self Care Steps Too

TyAnn: Yeah. And this is for people who are like, "Oh, I can't list that, because that...that doesn't count. Or, I don't want anyone to know that I secretly like to….[insert whatever crazy hobby it is].

I was working with a group of chemical engineers. And this one gentleman, he stood up, and he said, “I like Dutch oven cooking.”

And I thought, what a brave thing to say in front of a room of other chemical engineers. And I'm like, “You go! Dutch oven cooking! What a specific niche thing to do.” It's a brilliant self care idea, but he never would have called it that.

Lisa: Yeah. It makes me think of "things you do to decompress" as another category for the list of self care ideas.

Tyann: I didn't even know that was a hobby. And I like to cook too.

And whatever it is, it doesn't matter. It's all about what rejuvenates you.

Lisa: Back to your analog self care idea list: I facilitate an activity like this. I'll put the timer on two minutes, and I'll say, “Don't let the pen stop... keep going as a stream of consciousness thing."

What did I like doing when I was 9?

What am I doing when I lose track of time?

What activities are fun?

Who is fun to be around?

What am I good at?

What comes easily to me?

What makes me feel alive?

What am I saying when I crack myself up?

What topics to I love to learn about?

What makes me different from the average person?

If you just can't think of an answer, keep the pen going and move to another angle." What you brought up for me is my follow-on, that I'll often have people do, which is: Keep this out for a week, because you need to grab the little moments that you didn't even know, “Oh, I got a little spark out of that idea and it reminded me of a whole new set of self care ideas.” 

And one of them that I think is really cool is: What makes you weird? And if I just ask you that, like, how many things could you list? Well, I might be able to add more than a normal person. But the little things like, what has anyone ever commented on? Because they'll come up. They'll pop in your head later. 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: Okay, a weird thing about me is I eat canned things, because I like to eat vegetables and I like to be efficient. And I don't like spending a lot of time on my food. But I do want quality food in me. So somewhere in the middle, I found a jar of beets that I eat for my snack or my lunch. That's weird. I just stick my fork in the jar of beets and I eat it. Isn't that bizarre? 

TyAnn: Lisa eats green beans out of the can as well. 

Lisa: I will. Green beans are doable... but.. some of them are too squishy, like canned asparagus and spinach. Those are a no-go… Green beans, corn, beets — all workable for moments of vegetable efficiency.

But that is very weird. But if you start looking at it like, what energizes me? The energizing part isn't the beets. It's finding new efficiencies. Finding ways to break a rule, like that rule makes me think about how I don't have to cook because other people do.

I remember a moment when I got feedback at my house that I was not running the dishwasher as often as it should be because we were running out of forks. And so my answer was *not* to wash dishes more frequently or run the dishwasher more frequently. It was to buy more forks. And I got a real kick out of that. It was my special way of being efficient and effective.

So these weird things about you can generate surprising self care ideas.

TyAnn: I love that. 

Lisa: When you see “Oh, I love coming up with something that is a solution to a problem that is not normal, that no one else would think of.” And I'll get a jazz out of that that will give me an hour-long high. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: So being able to write down those things, like the moments where you got a boost or you got a kick out of yourself. 

TyAnn: This is so great. So you've said a couple of things that I think are brilliant. 

Life is made up of all these little moments that are punctuated by the big thing.

But 99% of life is...just we go through life, right? So that's where we can look. And so much of what you said is like a Maximizer coming out, which by the way, I'm that as well.

But two examples for you in the food realm.

So we started getting those home boxes that come with the food and the recipe. The box comes in, you have the recipe and you put it all together. Usually it's my job to put the ingredients together.

Occasionally, my husband will put it together but he takes the recipe and goes exactly step by step and it comes out and, you know, it's fine.

I'm different. I take the recipe and use it as a launchpad. It's like a starting point because I'm often thinking, "Hmm, you know, what would make this better?Just a little bit of shallot, a little bit of garlic, you know, a dash of cinnamon..." 

And then I’ll present it to him, he's like, “This is not the recipe.” I'm like, “I know. It's better. It's better.” That's like a hallmark of Maximizers: "I’m gonna make this better!"

Lisa: And it makes you really excited.

TyAnn: Oh, huge, huge jazz out of it. 'Cause I sort of have this image of myself back at the test kitchen of whatever company being all like, “I made it better,” even though that's not my job and I would never do that. Anyway, in my head, it's pretty exciting.

So, and a long time ago, back when the interwebs were still very new, I had this website, and one of the things I did was reviews of restaurants and products. This is really crazy to think about now.

But do you remember flight — I know, we'll get back there one day — and in the in-flight magazine, how there were always those lists of like, top 10 steak houses in the United States.... Well, I took that as a challenge. And so I decided to go visit all of them, and then do reviews on them and see if I really thought they were the top 10 steak houses. 

So then I had a whole thing on.

Lisa: And you had this whole energy... 

TyAnn: I do! 

Lisa: ...about it. 

TyAnn: And I'm 100% sure no one ever read that. But it didn't matter. I wasn't doing it for the audience, I was doing it as, like, a quality kind of thing. 

Lisa: Hmmm. What's your take...you're making me think of...on the topic of self care ideas...how fulfilled we feel as humans and how alive we feel as humans, because I think there's a difference between being alive and feeling alive, like feeling alive for what you're doing. And that so much of it can come from striving and having a goal and that there's something around it even if it's something like, “I have this thing, I'm going to visit these 10…places."

TyAnn: Whatever…

Lisa: Whatever that thing is, so even making one of those lists...instead of it being an inventory of things you've found yourself get a charge out of it, could be like, “Oh, that sounds fun. I'm actually going to go do that.”

TyAnn: You know, there was research that was done about, and this was really done on couples and families. And something that was particularly bonding was something they came up with and called it a quest. But it works for individuals too, that whenever you have a quest, something that you're doing together, and it doesn't have to be like, “We're gonna go visit every continent,” even though that could be fun, but that might be a little unattainable for a lot of people, it could just be, “We're gonna go check out all of the state parks in a 30-mile radius from our house.” 

Lisa: Yes!

TyAnn: Or we're gonna find a public fishing hole near where we live. I mean, it doesn't, it literally doesn't matter what it is. It's just something that's a common goal for you. 

Bringing Strengths Into Self Care By Focusing On Things That Energize You

Lisa: I like that as a very actionable thing that you could do with this, where you're like,

"How can I do self care? Can I bring my strengths into it?"

And by the way, you can look at them and say,

"What would light these up?"

And that can be part of your list making. But also, if you do things that feel easy to you and energizing to you, they probably are in alignment with your strengths naturally.

TyAnn: That's a clue to strengths, too. 

Lisa: Yeah!

TyAnn: Usually your strengths are things that bring you energy and you feel naturally attracted to. So it doesn't matter if it's, "You know what, I'm going to try a seasonal fruit or vegetable this month. This is going to be the month of asparagus, and I'm going to go try that.” Whatever.

Or, "We're going to try a new place." You know, you often hear this, "We're going to try something new." Because if you put yourself out there a little bit, but it's a new adventure of some sort, it kind of satisfies a lot of this neat thing. And that's what really gets a lot of cool juices flowing for you. Doing the same thing over and over tends not to stroke that same area for you. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I like how you do the... If you're going to come up with a quest as one of the action items like, what could your quest be? And could you have a quest that would be a workplace quest or a family quest? And then could you do one that would feel really enlivening to one of your strengths? And then even if you wanted to have a work or family conversation around it, how could this quest be really fun for this family? 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: Or how could this quest, this big aspirational goal that the team is heading toward, which… How could you find a way that one of your strengths comes alive through it? It would be a really cool conversation. 

TyAnn: Absolutely.

Lisa: I don't know if this is the same video you were talking about with research? Jane McGonigal was a researcher and she was recovering from a concussion. She started a quest to get better. There's a TED talk where she describes what she did to power up. She called it Super Better. And it was how she gamified getting better. She was also a gamer and she figured out a way to get super better, but bits at a time. And this quest notion, whether or not she used those words.

TyAnn: I love that. 

Lisa: ...it was baked into it. And it gives you a way to get there. Instead of feeling like, I think when people are bad at self care, when we're doing ourselves wrong, it's because I'm like, “Well, I'm, I haven't worked out this week, so I'm going to eat tater tots for breakfast.” 

TyAnn: We like tater tots in our house as well. Gotta say. Tater tots loving family. And then someone might say, well, and if I had tater tots for breakfast, I might as well just go all in and have cake for lunch. And...

Lisa: Oh, and I put ice cream on my list of self care ideas. So we have that and then you're all downhill. 

TyAnn: But it's an interesting kind of this concept too. So you know, a lot of people have workout on their list because they think that's what should be on the list. So I would say stop shooting on yourself. What brings you energy is what brings you energy. No one's creating this, by the way. 

And so if you feel like a natural attraction to you would like to get more activity in your life, that doesn't have to mean I have to go to the gym for an hour and a half, and get on some torturous piece of equipment that I don't want to be on, that makes me feel icky... Or, I have to go to a Body Pump class where I'm embarrassed and don't know how to do it. That's not what that means. 

Lisa: Yeah, I think that thing, like remembering, there's a notion, maybe it's one that other people have put out there for you. Or maybe it's something you've made up about what that word means. Workout is a good example of one that's loaded.

TyAnn: Yeah, a lot of baggage,

Lisa: I think quick shout out to the book, Eat, Move, Sleep. That’s a really good one for self care ideas.

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa: …asking yourself, how are you on your eating and moving and sleeping? But okay, like if you said, “Okay, I want to move.” 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: What kind of moving is fun for me? Maybe for one person, it's taking a walk with a friend,  and you got to have the social connection while you were power walking. For the next person, it’s going to a group exercise class. 

Like I had... I went and hooked up my Xbox again, for the Kinect, to dance to Fergie. I mean, it's silly, but that's a fun workout for me. So why don’t I do it?

TyAnn: That counts. That counts. 

Lisa: And then you go, “Oh, well. Well, I do. Why don't I hook that back up?

TyAnn: Right! 

Lisa: Why do I have that unplugged?

TyAnn: So if you want to be Dance Dance Revolution, man, knock yourself out! 

Lisa: I love Dance Dance Revolution. 

TyAnn: Or if you just want to crank up the music, or take a walk, or if you want to try some, you know, whatever new class is out there...

Lisa: Take a whole new class! Whatever sounds fun for you.

TyAnn: ...there’s something. So I think it really is trying to get away again from, if you write something down because you feel you should, I would say take another look at that, because that's not bringing you energy. And this is supposed to be a self care list about things that are exciting to you and bring you energy. 

So if you feel like you should call your mom every day and spend an hour on the phone with her, but that doesn't bring you energy, don't put that on your list. Don’t put that on your list.

Or even working out. If that doesn't sound so great to you, think about, “What does sound great to me? Hanging out with my friend sounds great. So maybe, I get an accountability partner at the gym. Then, that can be where I go to see my friends, I've kind of paired something I'm a little more iffy at with something I'm excited about. So together, I'm sort of killing two birds with one stone in a way that still feels awesome." 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: So I think that's part of that self care. So I would just say, get back to that creative space. Think about those things which bring you energy. Try to get down to those micro-segments.

I like organizing, that brings me energy. And so if I'm feeling a little out of sorts, 

Lisa: Labeler. 

TyAnn: If I'm feeling a little out of sorts, I might just literally pull open my desk drawer and just get it sorted out. 

Lisa: Oh, this is the perfect closing to this. 

Self Care Need Not Be Hard Or Inconvenient — Grow On Micro Habits

Lisa: On the best self care ideas: My favorite TyAnn concept of the universe is “stop making things so hard.” 

I make life hard because I think of all of these things I should be doing or want to do or that would feel great. But then they feel too gratuitous. It just feels like too much time. I don't have that much time for these eight hours of things I would prefer to do during the day. 

TyAnn: It's too much. 

Lisa: So the opening one drawer, and organizing one little space... 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: The reading one page of a book, not even one chapter, but I like reading, I read one page. 

TyAnn: Yoohoo, ‘crushing it! I’m winning.

Lisa: If you’ve read Atomic Habits, have you checked out that? 

TyAnn: Yes. Yeah. 

Lisa: It's like, I will put my workout shoes next to my bed, and I will put my workout shoes on and then maybe...I will do 10 push-ups, and that's your only expectation for yourself — 10 push-ups, just something that is... 

TyAnn: ...that you can crush, you can win...

Lisa: ...very small and doable. 

TyAnn: Micro-habits. 

Lisa: ...and let it grow. 

TyAnn: And you're like, I want to eat more vegetables. Great, I ate one asparagus. Winning! (laughs) Right? As opposed to, “Well, now I have to become a vegan.” 

...which seems like a big thing. 

Lisa: That is so funny as a closing thought too because I have some like vegan experimenting things that…

TyAnn: Vegan-curious?

Lisa: Yeah! Say I’m plant-curious. If you're listening, hey, Becky Hammond from Isogo Strong

TyAnn: We love Becky! 

Lisa: Becky's a vegetarian. I was talking about well, you know, if I were to do it, I would just go vegan because I don't eat dairy so I would just like, that's the big battle with going vegan to me anyway, is I can't eat dairy anyhow. So I got past the vegetarian vegan thing. But I don't know about that.

And I started giving all of these reasons: "This gets in my way...this makes it a precarious approach...and this makes it inconvenient. And she's like, “Just have one more plant-based meal per day."

I said, “Oh, hello!” I hadn't thought of that.

TyAnn: Something doable.

Lisa: Stop making everything all or none. Stop making everything have a mutually exclusive this or that. 

TyAnn: Stop making it so hard. Stop making it so hard.

Lisa: And with that, I think it is…the perfect ending.

So you've been listening to Lead Through Strength. As you think about not making it so hard and bringing your strengths into your self care practice, walk away with your list. Log those moments over the next month, maybe just a week or a few days. But catch the moments that were fun to you. Come let us know on social what they were for you because it is fun to hear the energizing moments for other people. 

TyAnn: Absolutely. We'll talk about all of the self care ideas.

Lisa: We will. Because the variety is so much fun when you learn one person's trash is another person's treasure - in hobbies and in tasks at work. So with that, let us know which ones you're starting to implement.

We would love to hear how you took five more minutes for your self care so that you can fill your cup because we don't want you out of water. With that, we'll see you next time. Bye for now.

Resources: Self Care Ideas To Help You Fuel Up Your Strengths And Fire Up Your Life

Vital to self care is staying at your top form and performing better at work by knowing what keeps your strengths honored and insulted. Visit Lisa’s insightful episode about finding energizing tasks at work to discover what situations (or cultures) can either drain or motivate you based on your strengths.

But simply knowing what honors and insults your strengths or talents cannot complete a self care process. Lisa’s Strengths Blind Spots episode serves as a great reminder to “feed our talents the same way we feed our body." Spend time developing and nurturing them instead of squashing them down so they can best serve your performance and, ultimately, that of the team.

Finally, check out this episode on Wellbeing: Bravely Build a Fit Body and Mind Through Strengths with Lisa and Matt Swenson. You’ll learn to create healthy strengths habits around the 5 essential elements of wellbeing: career, social, financial, physical, and community. Life-changing self care ideas!

Direct download: 131-Self-Care-Ideas.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

How Can I Turn Conflicts Around When My Manager Hates Me?

Certain situations can highlight the stark differences within a team, especially when your strengths seem opposite of others' strengths. For example, you might think “my manager hates me” when they seem to value other team members' ideas and blow off yours. To conform or to stay true to your natural talents becomes a tough choice to make. 

When you’re the manager, it takes some skill to build a balance between honoring your team members' strengths and honoring yours, especially where you think the business priorities and values are at stake. And when you manage a team with a very different set of top 5 or top 10 strengths, how exactly do you do it?

Welcome to this episode, the first in a series with TyAnn Osborn, who role-plays and reflects with our host Lisa Cummings on the difficult scenarios where team members may have conflicting strengths. How do they handle the situation and turn conflicts around?

Here’s the transcript of the episode.

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings, and you know, I'm always telling you, it's hard to find something more energizing than using your natural talents every day at work.

Well, something that's just about as energizing is when I get to hang out with the other host here in the room, TyAnn Osborn.

TyAnn: Hi!

Lisa: Today, we're going to talk about a topic that we haven't decided yet, because I am going to use this spin-the-wheel thingy thingy, to tell us.

*Spins the wheel*

TyAnn: I like the sounds.

Lisa: Oh, it says: ‘You don't like a teammate.’

When Someone On The Team Drives You Crazy

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachLisa: So today, we're going to talk about what you could do with your strengths when you don't like one of your teammates. Has this ever happened to you, Ty? 

TyAnn: No, I've always loved everyone that I worked with... No...[hint of sarcasm]

Lisa: But I bet one of your clients has had this situation since you've never had it, 'wink-wink...' 

TyAnn: Of course, there's always someone that - for some reason - rubs you the wrong way. You just, you know, they're not your love language. And I work with clients all the time who have... there's always seems to be someone on the team who they just can't seem to get along with. Has this ever happened to you too? 

Lisa: Definitely. I mean, it's funny because I feel like a big thing about me is that I love people. And I love most people. 

TyAnn: Right. Me too!

Lisa: But there are people that I don't jive with as well. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: And it takes some extra effort to understand where they're coming from, or really feel like, ‘Oh, I fully get them,’ or something like that.

TyAnn: Which, you know, that's interesting when you're an individual contributor, when you feel that way, because you're like, ‘yeah, maybe that's just him’, you know. But when you're a manager, and you think, ‘Oh, I'm supposed to like everybody on the team’, or, ‘I need to not show favoritism but, eh, I kind of don't like that person. What do I do?’ It's kind of like being a parent; you're not supposed to not like one of your kids. So... 

Lisa: Or not have a favorite. 

TyAnn: Or not have a favorite. So, what do you do?

Lisa: Okay, so let’s do a scenario? Let's do it like, you’re a manager. It will allow us to see the perspective of the manager thinking, "Ugh, that person is high maintenance on the team." And it will allow us to explore the flip side where a team member is thinking, "Ugh, my manager hates me. What should I do?"

TyAnn: Yep. 

Lisa: You happen to have done CliftonStrengths as a team. 

TyAnn: Because you're a great manager.

Lisa: 'Cause you're awesome. And there is a person on your team that you appreciate as a human, but as a performer, they feel very high-maintenance to you, they drive you kind of crazy. Let's pick some talent themes that might be seemingly opposite each other so we can make it a real scenario. 

TyAnn: Okay.

Lisa: Does one pop up for you as one that is least likely to be paired with another? 

TyAnn: I see Deliberative being perceived as a problem child, especially when a lot of other people on the team might be more, say Activator, or something that's very forward in motion. Either Achiever, Activator, something like that. So maybe you've got a team that's like, ‘Oh, we're always ready to go!’ And there's one person who seems like they never can just get on the bus. And they're always the one dragging their heels.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh, we should do this on both directions. 

TyAnn: Okay.

Lisa: Let's take Achiever-Activator. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: And then let's take Deliberative. Say these are the two different people. And we can start with the manager, having Achiever-Activator, wanting stuff to get done quickly, and wanting to make decisions quickly. And the person who wants to take a little more time is the team member who reports to you, and then we’re gonna swap it. 

TyAnn: Okay. Okay, I've got a real life example on that. 

Lisa: Awesome. Okay.

TyAnn: Absolutely. 

Lisa: So you're my manager. 

TyAnn: Okay. 

Lisa: You're Achiever-Activator [role play begins you can also watch the video version to get the subtleties].

TyAnn: Woohoo! Let's get going, man, come on!

Lisa: And I'm saying, "Well, bad news. I'm going to miss that deadline that you gave me."

TyAnn: Lisa, what's going on? I gave you the deadline. Come on! Chop, chop! 

Lisa: Well, the thing is, I *could* get it done, but I can't get it done *properly* right now, because we don't have all of the information. I've been trying to work with this other department. They've been dragging their heels. I’m waiting for them.

If I do it now, I might just be giving you completely incorrect information because I'm seeing three or four ways this could all go wrong if I blaze ahead today, and it feels like I'm just gonna be wasting time….

TyAnn: Lisa, all I hear is excuses. I have stuff to get done too. We owe the marketing department this information. They're waiting on us to get this stuff into print. We're behind already and you know what, you're never going to have 100% confidence in what you do. So just give me something. 

Lisa: Uhum...[hangs head]. Okay, now that we've come out of our characters from our roleplay, I would say, you were kind of playing like the in-between our manager where you were trying to give the people listening to the podcast, like a little bit of a glimpse of inside your head, but also be somewhat mature, like, in how you... 

TyAnn: Right, right. 

Lisa: ...because you're balancing the two - and that the inside voice and the outside voice are really different. 

TyAnn: That’s true.

My Team Member Frustrates Me: How Can I Moderate My Message To The Person?

Lisa: Can you explain what was going on fully inside voice? Unfiltered.

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: ...and then how, if you wanted to maturely talk to me, and still keep me engaged...how that might look? 

Tyann: I think that's a good point because hopefully, as you progress in your career, you just don't say the first thing that pops into your head. I always say, there's the reason why there's a little space between your head and your mouth. Yeah, have a little filter in there. But inside your head, it's very normal be like,

"Oh, my God, you are so frustrating! I gave you the deadline. Arrgh, why didn't you say something sooner? You, you always do this. And all I'm hearing is excuses. Now you're throwing this other department under the bus. I cannot count on you. The rest of the team - we're getting it done. And we have to deal with the same things."

So typically, what I see when I see this combination of strengths is a lot of frustration. That is usually the emotion that I see a lot, it’s frustration. Whoever has the action, it's like, "Oh, I'm just really angry with you." And whoever's on the receiving side, well, we can debrief how you feel. But usually it's a lot of frustration on that side, too. So that's kind of what's happening inside. 

And then on the outside, but I'm trying to be a good manager, and I'm trying not to just say, "Oh my God, you're such an idiot, and I hate you." 'Cause I would never say that to someone. But I'm trying to say, "You know, of course, we're never going to have 100% confidence in what we do, because that's not real life. So we have to get to a point where we may feel 80% confident, and how do we do that? And too, you can't always have an excuse for why things aren't happening. You have to take ownership of something, too."

So that's what I was trying to moderate in the message. So you could feel some of that? 

Lisa: For sure. And I put you on the spot and I know this person is thinking, "I know my manager hates me, but I still don't want to deliver shoddy work."

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: It's easier when you have time to think out the words for the feedback. It's simpler to give the vibe that, "I've been thinking about how I'm going to coach you and how we can improve this over time." What we've been doing is the in-the-moment heated feeling, "Oh, we just missed a really important deadline. You didn’t tell me. I am so upset."

Tyann: Right. And now my butt's in the sling because of you. 

Lisa: Yeah. And I hear things from managers, like, "Everybody else can do it. You're the only one…" And then you don't want to give that as feedback...

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachTyAnn: Right. Or you start hearing that relationship language like "always," and "never," which we say, you know, anytime you start hearing, "always," "never," that should be a clue. But when you definitely start feeling... 

Lisa: Alarm bells.

TyAnn: Yeah, alarm bells should go off. But when you start feeling inside, like, "Oh, my God, you're always the problem. You're the problem employee. Everyone else can get it done on time, how come you can't?"

And that's when you start hearing things like, you know, "Lisa's got to go."

Lisa: Right. The employee also feels the My Manager Hates Me alarm bells.

TyAnn: Absolutely. From the manager, perspective they're already thinking of firing the person. I always call it "my employee’s broken, I want a new one" syndrome. And, you know, that might be an answer. But I don't want that to be the first answer. To me, I want that to be the last answer. And I would like to try and see, "Can this marriage be saved before we go to it's broken?"

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: Because it takes a lot of effort to get another employee. 

Lisa: Oh, yeah. And I have something valuable to offer you with the Deliberative talents when they're dialed in well. 

TyAnn: Right. Yes. Absolutely.

Lisa: I might sit in the seat... Okay, here's what I would say, like, what would be in my head if I were this team member? I would be thinking, "Yeah, other people get it done on time. And all of my teammates, ‘always’, ‘never’... all, all my teammates, give crappy work. I'm on a team where no one cares about quality, all they care about is speed.

We do so many things three or four or five times because we were refused to do it right the first time because we won't take an extra minute to get the information from the other department, or fix that relationship that's creating the block that won't let us get the information. My manager hates me and hates my style.

"And anytime I bring up the ‘what ifs’ or ‘this might go wrong’, people treat me like I’m the negative Nellie so I just shut down and don't say anything. But it doesn't mean I want to give you bad work."

TyAnn: Mm hmm. So yeah, so you're surrounded by people that you think are...yeah...

Lisa: Half-assing it. 

TyAnn: Half-assing it. And I like to say why half-ass when you can whole-ass? [smiles] Because you're right - then you're pretty probably seeing a bunch of rework that has to happen. When if we just put in the correct effort to begin with, you know, that wouldn't happen. But meanwhile, you've shut down. 

Lisa: I've shut down. 

TyAnn: ...because you've been shut down. 

Lisa: Yes. And I might be thinking, leading through Deliberative, seeing all of the activity that is resulting in, in my opinion, bad quality work out there, now I'm thinking, "Oh, look, the whole team is running around like chickens with their head cut off. Looks totally foolish.

I'm the only one actually putting reasoning behind what we're doing. I'm the only one who's thinking I'm the only one who is bringing some rigor to this process. How is it that my manager hates me when I'm the voice of quality and avoiding a crisis that we're bound to experience if we don't pump the brakes?"

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: And no one's valuing it. And then I'm thinking, "Well, clearly, I'm not a good fit for the job, or the company or the team, or maybe my manager. But if the whole team I perceive it like that…"

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: And maybe they are like that. Or maybe they've just conformed to your behavior, because as a manager, you've been so strong in your speed.

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: At least you're clear. So that I'm grateful for. You know, opposites. 

My Manager Hates Me: Do I Conform And Please, Or Do I Look For Another Team?

TyAnn: So you said two things that were really interesting. In this scenario, you talked about this, you were waiting on something from another team, so you were the only person who brought up even an interaction with another team. So to me that says you were thinking a little more systematically and holistically. So maybe these other guys should have been interacting with this other team, and they haven't been, so there's something going on there that should be paid attention to. 

But you also said something about maybe the rest of the team, they actually know things should be being done differently too, but here's what you find in a team. People want to please the manager. Because why? Because we are self-serving creatures. We do self-preservation activities, because that's what help... helps keep us alive. And at work, that's what helps keep us employed and... 

Lisa: You’re writing my performance review! 

TyAnn: You’re writing my review, you're helping me keep this job, you're helping me get paid more. And so it's not that there's a diabolical plot, it's just we are human beings, and we are doing these behaviors because if that's what you want for me, that's what I'm going to deliver. Even if I know there's something else that's possibly better. 

Lisa: Oh, it could even be especially if. What if I think I need you to think I'm a good performer? Because if I want to change roles, because this one isn't a good fit for me, I need you to... 

TyAnn: ...to support me. 

Lisa: Yeah, I need your support to move into another team. And when the next manager asks how I am as a performer... 

TyAnn: Right. 

Lisa: ...I want you to just say how amazing I am, not that I was your highest maintenance team member, right?

TyAnn: So even if I thought you would be good for another role, they're going to say, what was Lisa's performance on your team? And I'm going to have to say Lisa was the worst performer. Who's going to want to take my lowest performer? That's going to be a much harder sell. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And so you end up with kind of these, I always call them like aberrant behaviors. And again, not because people are diabolical, or someone sitting around trying to figure out, you know, the worst way to do things. It's just...it's self-preservation in action. And so if we don't make a conscious effort to really stop and think about things, this is what happens unintentionally.

So at the end of the day, you have good ideas, probably that aren't being heard. People are running off half-cocked. And you know, there's a bunch of rework - probably not very high quality. You know, ultimately, it's just not the best product and not the best environment, or certainly not as good as it could be something. That's what we tend to see. 

Lisa: Now even though this could be a perfectly good place to end this example, let's make sure that we've flipped the scenario. Because I think it's a good example for people to experience when the same situation exists, but the themes are flipped around, because it can just change the whole scene of how the team culture looks.

You actually said you have a real example of this. So... 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: Is that, is that a shareable example if it's anonymized? 

Leverage Communication To Resolve StrengthsFinder Talent Theme Conflicts

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachTyAnn: Absolutely. So I had this happen. And it doesn't often happen this way. But it did. And I thought it was a good story. I was working with a news crew, so the people you see on TV to put out the news. And the manager was very high Deliberative. 

Lisa: Okay. Nice.

TyAnn: And the news people as you can imagine, very high action-oriented. I mean, and it was a newsroom. It was very much "we have to get this on the air right now." I mean, it was very high-pressured. And so Deliberative, you know, doesn't like high pressure, needs time to think, really wants to make sure that all the facts are correct, I would hate to put something out and have it be wrong.

So the manager was feeling like,

"I am working with a bunch of people who don't care about quality, are willing to be excessively risky with the reputation of our brand, because we might have to put a retraction out on the air. And that we're just going to be putting stuff out there that's half-baked, and I work with a bunch of people who I can't trust."

Meanwhile, the reporters are saying,

“Our manager is a wet blanket. Every time we take him a really cool idea, his first reaction is ‘no’, or he asks me 17,000 questions that I haven't fully thought through, I don't have the answers to. So he makes me feel stupid, or he makes me feel like, by the time I get through all of his questions, you know what, the moments passed, like, it doesn't even matter anymore. Or he'll never get back to me at all.” 

And so there was this just huge conflict between them with none of them feeling valued on the team. But you know, the funny thing is, I wasn't called in because there…to do a remediation or a problem. I was called in, because they were all high performers.

That was a really interesting one to step into. 

Lisa: Wow. What you're bringing up for me is this idea that it really doesn't matter what the themes are, or what the job is, because you can take any of your top CliftonStrengths talent themes, and they could be applied to serve any role. Because it's easy to get caught up in this thing, where we're like, "On this team, this group of them feels bad and this group of them feels right, or for this manager, this, this serves me, and these are not serving me.

But the reality is that our natural talents are (if we allow them to be) our easy buttons to performance."

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: It's this concept of, well, maybe it's gone wild. You know, strengths gone wild. So if they could be honed in a little bit, both things that you were just bringing up in that scenario, are valuable to the organization.

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: It's just all of them can't be on blast... 

TyAnn: ...All the time.

Right. So, Lisa, you often talk about keys on a keyboard, and when we play them together, and they're harmonious, we've got some good chords going. It sounds awesome, right? And so you're right, it's not that there's good strengths and bad strengths, or that, you know, these things are naturally in conflict. It's just kind of finding that right level, because I don't think anyone would say, "Yeah, we're just gonna slap junk on the TV. And if it's not, right, well, who cares?"

I mean, no one's gonna say that, right? And no one's gonna say, "Well, we're going to chase down every possible lead until we get a 100%, you know, confidence in this. And meanwhile, it's just gonna be black on TV until we feel like we're 100% confident." Because that's not realistic, either.

So ideally, it would be great to feel like, we can work with the pace that we need to and put out really quality content that I feel good about. And in the event of an escape, you know, or a quality issue, we have a good process in place to catch that and to do whatever we need to to make a quick correction. 

Lisa: Yeah. 

TyAnn: And so what I got him to do was, actually, to codify his thinking process. I said, "What are the top three questions you usually ask when someone comes to you with a new idea?’ And he said, ‘Well, I just wish people had thought through things a little bit better. So I wish they would think about this, this and this." And I said, "Great, let's capture that. Let's get that out to the team so that they can do that thinking and you don't have to."

And that's it. That's easy. And I said, "How long would it take you to get back to the team then when they come to you with ideas? What...what would feel good and realistic?" And he said, "I could get back to people within 24 hours."

So okay, so we went back to the team said, "Is that a commitment that's workable for you?" So we had both sides in a satisfied position.

I wouldn't even say it's a compromise because it didn't feel like anyone was giving something up. It just felt more like communication. And so that together, we're better. And it was like a light bulb went on in terms of, now It didn't feel like I was just doing things the hard way, like it didn't feel like a struggle every day. It felt like people were almost looking for that next opportunity so that they can test the stuff out.

Find Out Where One Is Coming From And Assume Positive Intent

Lisa: Love it. So when you think about action items to give listeners, lets see what they can do with this. Maybe a person is thinking, "my manager hates me, so what are my next steps?" Or a manager is thinking, "Jim wears me out, so how can I give him a chance to show up at peak performance?"

It's too bad that this becomes a recurring theme at the office. It's the same frustration over and over again, it's just that they haven't figured out how to talk about it yet. Often they'll bring in Ty to say,

“Can you help us communicate better because we haven't been facing the tough conversation with each other - now it's messing things up."

Tyann: Right.

My Manager Hates Me - The *Not* Savage Strengths ApproachLisa: I love that there's the facilitated process that could happen. And by the way, you can bring Ty into your organization to do this, if you need help. Sometimes it just still feels awkward for you to do it because you can't be neutral like a 3rd party.

TyAnn: I'm always happy to come in and facilitate awkward conversation [all smiles]. 

Lisa: You are the number one awkward conversation facilitator. 

TyAnn: I could totally do that. But you can start this on your own as well. 

Lisa: Yeah. I think if I were to leave any parting words for the person who's trying to do it on their own first before they blow up to the team, or before they verbalize the feedback to someone else, it would be, really get clear.

“Is it because my personal preferences are different from the business priority?”

It's personal preference, business priority, which is which? Are they not the same? And if they're not, that can be okay. You just have to get clear with yourself to go, “Ah. I get it - this is why it wraps my gut up in a knot.”

This is what I would rather it be like, but it's not like that, because it's real life.

TyAnn: Right.

Lisa: So I need to proceed like this. And then as I proceed like this with the business preference, because it's my job, it's what they're paying me for, then can I see some positive intent coming from that other person? Like, what are they actually aiming for here? Even though it's making me upset or making me feel frustrated, what are they trying to do that has good intent? Because nearly always, (sure, not always, there are nefarious characters out there somewhere), but nearly always people have good intent. 

TyAnn: Yep, absolutely. That's one of my favorite things, is assume positive intent.

Because believe me, your life will be much better when you do. It's amazing how many people that I run into don't or do think someone's out there trying to get them. Believe me, the vast majority of people go to work, and they want to do a good job. So let's assume positive intent. And I think that's just when you feel yourself getting... getting anxious, or you see that team member and you can just feel yourself getting triggered, or that thing happens again, and you feel it in yourself, that's a really good moment to think, "What is it specifically that is triggering me about this?"

And again, it doesn't have to be they are an awful human being, it's just something in them is different than how you would react in that situation. So I think, stop. Think about what it is. Think about the good thing that they bring. And then again, what problem are we trying to solve? What's our ultimate goal? And how can we both get there together? 

Lisa: What a perfect way to end this one. 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: So next time that comes up for you, be thinking of the other person, what's the positive intent? Where are they coming from that is good and how could that, if you know CliftonStrengths talent theme language, then what are they trying to accomplish? And since you already have the talent themes in a list (or the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book), you might get some ideas about where they're coming from. 

Tyann: Right.

Lisa: Because sometimes you do feel a little baffled... 

TyAnn: Yeah. 

Lisa: ...at the beginning, like why do they act like this, or why do they think like this, or why do they approach work like this? Or why does my manager hate me like this?

Just going to someone else's CliftonStrengths report and going, ‘Oh, they think this way, aha. This makes sense now.’ 

TyAnn: Reading the reports is a really good place to start. 

Lisa: It's great for helping you understand the other person. 

Alright, with that, you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you've been learning to apply your greatest strengths, to make your work stronger, and now also looking at other people's strengths and trying to notice those so that the whole team can get better together.

Thanks, Ty.

TyAnn: Thanks, Lisa.

Hate Is Unproductive — Understand More With These Additional Resources

Whether you’re a manager or a team member, you can stop any tendency to hold a theme bias against others’ so-called “bad strengths." Listen to our conversation on that for more. Of course, most teams don't have true hate, but when a team member thinks that a leader dislikes them, their engagement and performance can take a quick nose dive.

With the premise that conflicts arise in any widely diverse work environment, Lisa and Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines exchange views and tips in another episode on how to Ignite Better Team Collaboration Through Strengths.

All this highlights the importance of energizing tasks at work. What can fuel or discourage best performance lies in how much CliftonStrengths talent themes are allowed and supported within the team — a challenge for some teams but highly doable.

Direct download: 130-My-Manager-Hates-Me.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT